Sunday, February 10, 2013

Making Jay

Because there aren’t a lot of fictional surf movies made (and given the quality and authenticity of those films, that’s a good thing), surfers probably spend more time thinking and talking about the ones that have been made than they should. Such is the case with last Fall’s Chasing Mavericks. While it was better than the tin standard, Point Break (read my review here), it had its flaws. But most movies do.

As I was already pretty familiar with Jay Moriarity’s story, I was most intrigued by Frosty Hesson, Jay’s coach and mentor. Here was a guy who charged Maverick’s and, despite the bravado and life threatening repercussions associated with surfing this wave, took Jay under his wing and taught him how to ride it. That’s why when my friend Greg Cochran, President of the Pedro Point Surf Club, mentioned that Frosty had written a book following the release of the movie, I put it on my Christmas wish list.

Part autobiography, part Jay biography, and part coaching/life manual, Making Mavericks is a fascinating look into the life of an underground surfing legend. From an early age, Frosty was drawn to water and strove to be proficient in it, first with swimming, then water polo, then skiing and finally surfing. Frosty prospered in these sports but had to figure things out primarily on his own. He recognized that quality coaching was critical to success and growth and dedicated a lot of his free time to coaching kids, first with Bob Pearson’s surf team, then the Soquel High School surf team. When Jay approached Frosty, it was with the wish to be a better surfer. Jay’s request was simple but pure. Frosty admired that and showed Jay the way. To Jay’s credit, he provided the perseverance and work ethic. Frosty admired that too. When Jay wanted to be an effective contest surfer, Frosty helped him achieve that goal too. Again, with a lot of hard work, Jay accomplished his goal. Then, at only 15, Jay approached Frosty with a real challenge: teach him to surf Maverick’s.

The book features many takeaways that are bolded for emphasis to reinforce the lessons Frosty learned through his experiences and imparts on Jay. Some samples include:
  • Have a vision.
  • To become a capable, competent individual, learn from capable, competent individuals.
  • Don’t give less than it is your right for you to give.
  • You have to break down every goal into smaller, achievable steps, and acknowledge accomplishing each of them.
  • When you’re experimenting and trying to learn, you’re going to fall – when you stop falling, you start stagnating.
  • It’s easy to make a good athlete. It’s very hard to make a good human being.
  • To be successful, you cannot let yourself be tainted by other people’s fears.

Having grown up in the Bay Area, it was a treat reading about Frosty’s upbringing. He was raised in Hayward and lived in Lake Tahoe and Santa Cruz. His surfing exploits took him to the North Shore of Oahu, the East and West sides of Santa Cruz and, of course, Maverick’s. You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that Maverick’s is a special place and the surfers who charge it are special people. I especially enjoyed Frosty’s retelling of his first paddle-out at Maverick’s in October of 1998:

I saw Jeff [Clark] start to paddle and he was paddling harder and faster than anyone I’d ever seen. As he started his paddling, the bottom of the wave slope had not touched him yet. A few seconds later, the bottom of the slope touched him, and he went backward. He kept paddling at this furious pace, so intent and so focused, and I could not fathom how he went backward up the face of a wave. My heart started to pounding in a rush of excitement and fear—this was obviously a totally legit huge wave and it as where I lived! The whole world had suddenly changed. At the same time, I had to focus and put aside my emotions. It didn’t matter how awesome it was to have these waves in my backyard if I couldn’t ride them. So rather than get caught up in the thrill of the discovery, I started watching and turned it into an analytical process. There was only on question on my mind: how do I ride this wave?

Ultimately, Making Mavericks is much more than a book about a guy teaching a hyper-focused kid how to surf big waves. Instead, it’s a retrospective of a man preparing a boy for manhood while at the same time learning what manhood is all about. Frosty doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. When he was a kid he was just like Jay – an energetic kid thirsty for knowledge. But unlike Jay, Frosty had to figure things out on his own. Frosty sees Jay’s passion for learning and setting/meeting goals but knows kids can’t lean life’s lessons all on their own. He takes Jay under his wing and the rest is history. Frosty clearly has a soft spot for Jay and Jay clearly reveres Frosty. We get a glimpse into that symbiotic relationship and this element of the story really shines in the book.

In all, I found Making Mavericks a great book for two reasons: it provided me with a glimpse of the special relationship Frosty had with Jay and it provided many important lessons Frosty acquired through life that I can apply to my own life, to make me a better person. I highly recommend this book.

Until then, may your waves be head high and glassy.